26 April 2011

University of Victoria

"Bloody rabbits!"
The Queen threw down another handful of mangled geraniums.
"Pests are to be expected, my darling.  This isn't Osborne House.  The Dominion is still a place of wild animals, especially the island."
"Oh Albert, you have a steady voice of reason for such a busybody.  What if I told you the gazebo is sinking into the reflecting pool due to gopher tunnels?"
Albert whipped his head around and threw off his coat.
"What?  It's sinking?  I even switched from stone balustrades to wooden!  Find those gophers!"
The Queen touched Albert's shoulder.
"Calm down!  I'm only teasing."
Albert smirked.  He shook his balding head at his Queen.
Victoria smiled back.
She brushed the soil from Albert's coat.
"But as for the butchered gardens...we really do need to get a handle on these rabbits."

"Herr von Humboldt?"
"Sir, you have a telegram."
"And you have my permission to read it to me."
Alexander von Humboldt, biologist, sailor, writer, sat in the cabin in his docked ship.  He was hunched over his desk, carefully sorting feathers.  The unusually calm North Pacific waters allowed for a floating laboratory.  He didn't look up as the messenger boy began:


Von Humboldt held up his hand.
"Stop now.  Wait.  Victoria Gardens?  The Queen - and the prince, too, I suppose - is here...on Vancouver Island?"
Von Humboldt motioned for the boy to give him the telegram.  He lowered his spectacles and re-read it, softly mouthing the words.  The boy readied some paper and a pencil.
"I am ready to take your reply, sir."
"No need, mein kinder.  I shall set sail to deliver my advice personally."


Von Humboldt's clipper arrived at the inner harbour of the town of Victoria.  His crew tied the ship down under the sunny breezes.  Markets and inns hoisted colorful banners celebrating the upcoming event.  Carriages lined up for disembarking passengers.  Von Humboldt walked up onto Victoria Street.
"More Victorias?  I am already confused."
He summoned a carriage for the 30 minute ride to Victoria Gardens.  He admired his gift to the Queen, a stuffed yellow finch arranged on a tree branch.
When he arrived, Albert was speeding every direction, giving every direction.
"Dr. Von Humboldt!  What brings you here?"
"Your Highness!  It is my pleasure.  I came to assist with the Queen's gardens, as she requested."
"Yes, she did request it.  Several days ago.  But you did not reply, so we had no choice but to seek help from your peers."
"...My peers?"
The Queen rode up on a white horse.  In her red summer gown, she was a sight even without the reflective shine of the dewy air.  The horseman guided the animal toward Albert, who reached up to the Queen.
"Let me help you down, my darling."
"Thank you, Albert.  Dr. Von Humboldt!  I did not know you were coming, what a surprise!"
Von Humboldt bowed.
"Your highness.  I felt that it was too much of a coincidence for us to be so far from home, yet so close, that my assistance beyond telegram was in order."
"How kind of you to make the journey.  I knew you were embedded in your work and did not want to pester you."
"Not at all.  Speaking of my work, I brought you this.  This finch is one specimen we caught off one of the many bays to the south.  Now to the problem at hand, I believe I have the solution to your rabbit problem."
The horseman spoke up.
"That problem is solved, Alexander."
The horseman tied up the reins.  He removed his hat to reveal a tuft of blonde hair.
"Charles?" gasped Von Humboldt.
The Queen said, "When we found out Dr. Darwin was in town for the Grand Opening, we just had to seek him out.  It's not very often you can consult an expert on natural selection for a garden pest problem."
"I'd like to know how this expert handled it." said Von Humboldt.
"Marmots.  The Island Marmot is one of the more fierce larger rodents.  Very territorial.  Will not hesitate to fight in defence.  We introduced a few crates of them from the north of the island to the gardens.  I challenge you to find a rabbit here this fine afternoon."
"Then the problem becomes a marmot overpopulation!"
"That remains to be seen, but for this weekend, Victoria Gardens take top precedence."
The Queen said, "We certainly appreciate your help, Dr. Darwin.  Now, Dr. Von Humboldt, thank you for the finch.  Isn't that an odd coincidence?"
"Dr. Darwin brought us some finches as well!"
She pointed over to the gazebo.  An ornate bird cage held five brightly colored songbirds.
"He kept them alive all the way from...what was the name of those islands again?"
"The Galapagos, Your Highness."  Darwin turned to Von Humboldt.  "1000 kilometers from the mainland."
Von Humboldt sneered.  "Yes, I am aware of the Galapagos.  I have sailed near them in the past."
"But not actually to them."
 "I'm sorry, I've been too busy having universities named after me."
"Gentlemen!  This is most unbecoming of men of your scientific stature.  It is a time of celebration and conviviality, remember that.  Dr. Von Humboldt, Victoria is a small town, but the wildlife around would captivate you.  Perhaps you should take a stroll."
"Thank you for your hospitality, Your Highness."
"Yes, thank you, Your Highness."
Darwin and Von Humboldt bowed as the Queen went to find Albert.
Darwin turned to Von Humboldt.
"So what was your solution to the rabbits, anyway?"
"Only the best hunting dogs in all of Deutschland.  Now I plan to use them to clean up your marmot disaster."
"I was called upon to eliminate the rabbits.  And I did.  Any issues afterward can be solved by nature.  The question is will the reputation of the Queen's second favorite German survive a misstep like today's?"
"Oh?  It is a question now of survival?"
"Of the fittest."

Neither the marmots nor the hunting dogs worked in the long run.

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